We all know that studying journalism is not required to be a journalist. Many people working in the industry even graduated in other fields. Lots of aspiring journalists still choose this pathway, and sometimes it is worth it.
Unfortunately, this is only true if we’re talking about the United Kingdom, in other European countries, such as Poland, education for aspiring journalists looks completely different.
My first grievance is the fact that in both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching we have only a limited amount of journalism training. Fast track, part-time and other possibilities don’t exist in Poland. While News Associates and the Press Association are leading UK organisations in providing education, we can only attend typical academic bachelor and masters degree courses.
Both BAs and MAs take three and five years respectively and the choice of institution and content is really narrow. Actually, there’re only a few differences between journalism at the University of Warsaw compared to the University of Lublin, so people often apply for the university closer to home. Perhaps Warsaw is a more popular destination because there are many newspapers and broadcasters based there, and students think that in the capital will be a lot of opportunities to find internships or trainee schemes.
In fact, there is only one organisation which provides really good training for aspiring journalists. This organisation is PAP (Polish Press Agency) and most people attending their program later work for them. Don’t even dream about something like a one-year paid trainee scheme for graduates, they don’t exist.
The approach to doing a journalism degree in Poland is completely theoretical. In the Polish system of higher education, students have to 30-40 hours spend at university per week. There are a large amount of modules, and most of them are a bit like ‘Thinking about journalism’, ‘The media system in Poland’, ‘Types of journalism’. This is opposed to the UK, where you get modules such as ‘Journalism in practice’, and do radio/TV/newspaper journalism workshops, or work that contains practical aspects.
A student who’s graduated from a typical journalism course in Poland can explain the problems of media in Africa, types of writing pieces, and intricacies of media law, but the student does not have any experience in actually working in different journalism environments. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, because the above approach is a big problem in the whole Polish education programme. I’ve never met anybody, who after doing a journalism course in Poland, wouldn’t say that it was completely unhelpful in future work.
However, one positive aspect. Despite the fact we don’t have organisations like the NCTJ, we have the SDP (Polish Journalist Association) and the KSD (Catholic Journalist Association), which are, in my subjective opinion, better and more meaningful than British equivalents.
Unlike England where many are paid nowadays, in Poland they are almost always unpaid. They generally last from several weeks to half a year, and the number of people who get a job after such a work experience is very small. If you dream about a name in lights career from rags to riches, forget it.
I don’t want to say that getting a job from an internship is impossible, but it’s really hard to learn something or even earn some contacts when you are a dogsbody or just make tea for the editors.
There are many problems with being a wannabe journalist in Poland. Probably, no one is interested in studying journalism in Poland after my article, but there are many things we can learn from how journalism looks here. It hasn’t put me off… yet.